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you see this kind of thing. this is hearts and minds campaign that general petraeus is waging in afghanistan and elsewhere in pakistan and there are setbacks to it. reza, you wrote this as part of an mpr commentary at the end of the summer. the fear is that it may lead to the same kind of radicalization among muslim youth in the u.s. that we have seen in europe. are we in danger of proving al qaeda right? i'm a liberal progressive american muslim but when i see that bigotry against my faith, my very identity has become so common place in america that it is a wedge issue in the elections and i can barely control my anger. i can't imagine how the next generation of american muslim youth will react to provocations. what's behind this? >> part of it has to do with the controversy surrounding the islamic community center in lower manhattan. it is true that there are those that oppose the project because
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they do believe that it will disturb the sensitivities of some 9/11 victims, so i do want to remind everyone in this country we do not define our constitutional rights by how they disturb people's sensitivities. you only have to spend a few minutes at ground zero yesterday and to take in this international anti-muslim zealous that gathered together to spout the most vile racist bigotry to know that this is about something more. anti-muslim sentiment in this country is at unprecedented levels. we know this. what's truly disturbing is how mainstream it's becoming with politicians on both sides and i would have to include the former mayor in this category openly and explicitly associated american muslims with al qaeda. what i would like to know from not just the former mayor but from the people who keep talking about the islamic community
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center, what is it that this multifaced, multistory community center being led by an american imam that two republicans, republican and democrat, have used as an ambassador to the muslim world, cultural ambassador to the muslim world, what does that have to do with al qaeda? the answer is simple. islam. let's call a spade a spade for a moment. if you are painting 1.5 billion people with the same brush of violence and extremism, you're a bigot. and i think what's disturbing is the way that that's become part of the discourse. >> it's become politicized. 9/11 has been politicized in different ways since then. in a different way now. >> we have a lot of threats tangled together. both president bush and president obama for reasons you cited in your article have said that it is in our interest to make clear and no one more forcefully than president obama
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in the last few days that the u.s. is at war with terror but we're not war with islam. that's been viewed as essential to send that message to the world. the lesson we're seeing in this controversy over the mosque is not all americans agree. with president bush out of office, bush expecting those sentiments suppressed that kind of argument in the republican party. if you look at polling out recently in "time" magazine, republicans said that muslims should not be able to run for president. the flip side of this is that to some extent the sentiment is being driven by what you describe as already happening. the successor to the 9/11 commission, the national security preparedness group came out with a powerful study this week that talked about cases of terrorism being part of a new pattern in terms of becoming the major security threat to the u.s. and that in many cases it is radicalized american muslims. fringe element of the overall
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population but nonetheless real a in things like the times square and texas shooter fueled sentiment on the other side which may in fact produce -- >> if some of the demonization of the other because of what the country is going through right now, we're in an economic situation as i pointed out on the front page of "the new york times" more and more families going into homeless shelters this is not just a policy debate about taxes and spending it's about real impact on real lives around the country, is that in part what's fuelling this and can president obama make a gesture like going to a mosque saying that something he admired about what president bush did saying it's not a war against islam, can he do something like that? >> there's no question that throughout our history when times have been bad in economic declines and depression or in times when we've been at war, we've been susceptible to vilifying some group of people whether turning the japanese americans during world war ii and many other instances across
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our country so there's no question that fueling it and people saw political opportunity in fueling it. there's political opportunity and that's why we see that yesterday for the first time in commemoration of 9/11 and so you have sort of economic downturn meets political opportunity and it's created this really unfortunate -- >> mike murphy, rudy giuliani in the last couple months has been so crit alical of this administration's war on terror but he's saying th-- >> you can argue about tactics and foreign policy emphasis because of many things. it's something that's a national consensus on and that's part of the problem with this debate now on islam. the elections aren't about islam. one of the problems is there becomes a phony ekwif lance.
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so religion is a weapon to them. we're trying to be a civil society and so i think we have to be careful to keep our consensus of no big rotries. i think we're a tolerant country and we're the good guys. >> let's talk about the mid terms and the economic power of this recession. dee dee myers, i take you back now to 1993 and the documentary, "the war room." this was james carville. 7 out of 10 americans know somebody who is currently out of work in this recession. this is the poll that the national journal, ron brownstein's group has worked on. this is the war room and the famous message from james carville back then. >> talk about things that matter to people. you know, it's the economy,
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stupid. >> it's the economy, stupid. here we are again. and yet people's connection to the investigation and people have been laid off. is the president connecting on this issue? >> i think he's trying to. i think the results sort of speak for themselves. he's having trouble connecting on it and having trouble making people believe that he's done enough and he starts every conversation by saying we've done a lot but we haven't gotten where we need to be and we need to keep working. in 1994 we had a terrible midterm and lost both houses of congress and the economy was improving and people are still feeling -- >> part of the problem in '94 you talked about, ron, the chaos theory. democrats couldn't get anything done. democrats have got an lot done, mike murphy. financial reform, health care reform, a big stimulus. this is the point i was asking david axelrod about. there's a lack of confidence now after they have seen what the president has done in things getting better. >> i think they have a lot of things done. they haven't gotten a lot of results that the american people think have been effective.
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what happened when the president ran as a centrist and became more liberal with house democratic definition of that, he lost the country and lost the independents and some of the working class white voters he had. people now think that after two years of almost complete power in washington, he's had more power man many presidents have had because he's had all the houses and tremendous mandate and he hasn't delivered. people feel the pain and they want a change and there's clear there will be a change. >> we'll put up on the screen. midterm history for first term presidents is bleak for a president in power as we see it revealed here. a lot of losses across the board in our recent history. 2002 the exception after 9/11. what's happening here? >> pretty wide distribution. the first thing i learned this morning is if you are at 9.6% unemployment and it's not going down, there's not a good answer to any question. in fact, people are looking at over 60% of the country saying
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we're on the wrong track. what's not changing is people's report of their own current circumstances but the level of optimism about the future. you talked about the poll down from 55% saying the economy will get better over the next year. 70% said that in the spring. that's the real cloud hanging over democrats. i would say quickly there are two distinct strains that are emerging here. there's an ideological backlash going on around low 40% of the electorate. beyond that obama has a problem with performance and results. that's affecting even groups that were into the core of this coalition in 2008 and are not necessarily drawn towards these republican solutions. if they have hope of avoiding full scale disaster in november, it's about more of a choice tan a referendum which is difficult to do in midterm elections. >> health care reform, they have not won the argument there. you can look at the polling. this was written in new york
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post on friday which i thought was interesting. health care bill gave a party in need of a defining issue a marching order for the next several years and before passage this was a signature achievement. tough if you're a president and democrats who want run on that achievement in mid terms. >> they didn't win the argument over health care or financial reform and obviously the president wants to make this election about either moving forward or moving backward but as ron was saying most people feel they're standing still. they don't see backwards and forwards as two options. there's not a lot of room here. >> what more account president do do to save the house? >> he will have to contribute to the effort to target carefully. it's a brutal and ugly time in the party when you have to triage. you can raise money which he's done effectively and campaign in
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a few districts but that's not the silver bullet. he don't save the house by campaigning for specific members. he can focus on the economy as we've seen him do more aggressively particularly this week. >> you said on this program last year you described the republican party as russia 1919. i don't forget these quotes. warlords in republican party running around and nobody is in charge. do you think republicans have united in a way that can return them to power and be effective? >> president obama has become a great savior. if he stayed in the center he could have put us back no a long time but he went hard left and there's been reaction to his policy across the board and they'll lose. i told republicans to brag less and organize more but every poll now is historic. the only thing the president can do is build a time machine and go back in time to save an outcome that i don't know how bad it will be for democrats but people are mad.
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they don't believe this administration has delivered. it will be a different washington. >> i want to look at one specific race out in california. we all have california connections. i'm an l.a. native. we all have a california connection. the governor's race in california, mike murphy, you are working with meg whitman, the republican, former head of ebay and here's the poll. it's a tight race. she's ahead two percentage points over jerry brown, former governor of course. this is, ron brownstein a tight race in a state in a lot of economic trouble. >> absolutely. it's been the biggest blue state in the country overwhelming margin for president obama. it is easier for a republican to win as a statewide level than at the federal level because some of the polarizing social issues and wedge issueshat can trip up at the federal level aren't as relevant in state elections. meg whitman has spent a lot of money this summer and not put
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away jerry brown. the fact that he's hanging around where he is with all of the negatives that he carries shows that he's really in this. >> what's your view of the race? >> i think meg will win because she fits california well. it's a jobs program. people know she knows how to create jobs. that's number one issue. they know she's from the silicon valley delivering results which is what we need in sacramento. jerry brown is a time machine of failure. >> why does meg want to be governor of california? why would anyone want to be governor of california? >> california is so expensive. it's about getting a message out against the entrenched public employees and i believe it. i live there. >> we have to leave it there. we'll see what happens. we'll watch in california and around the country.
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before we go, a quick programming note. tune into msnbc this afternoon at noon and 3:00 p.m. for a special rebroadcast of brian williams report "new orleans an american story" and join us next week. i'll be joined live by former secretary of state colin powell for an exclusive interview. that's all for look at all this stuff for coffee. oh there's tons. french presses, expresso tampers, filters. it can get really complicated. not nearly as complicated as shipping it, though. i mean shipping is a hassle. not with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service. if it fits it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. that is easy. best news i've heard all day! i'm soooo amped! i mean not amped. excited. well, sort of amped.
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really kind of in between. have you ever thought about decaf? do you think that would help? yeah. priority mail flat rate box shipping starts at $4.95, only from the postal service. a simpler way to ship. no oil has flowed into the gulf for weeks, but it's just the beginning of our work. i'm iris cross. bp has taken full responsibility for the clean up in the gulf and that includes keeping you informed. my job is to listen to the shrimpers and fishermen, hotel and restaurant workers and find ways to help. that means working with communities. we have 19 centers in 4 states. we've made over 120,000 claims payments, more than $375 million. we've committed $20 billion to an independent claims fund to cover lost income until people impacted can get back to work. we'll keep looking for oil, cleaning it up if we find it and restoring the gulf coast. i was born in new orleans. my family still lives here.
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bp is gonna be here until the oil is gone and the people and businesses are back to normal... until we make this right. [ male announcer ] at ge capital, we're out there every day with clients like jetblue -- financing their fleet, sharing our expertise, and working with people who are changing the face of business in america. after 25 years in the aviation business, i kind of feel like if you're not having fun at what you do, then you've got the wrong job. my landing was better than yours. no, it wasn't. yes, it was. was not. yes, it was. what do you think? take one of the big ones out? nah.
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-- captions by vitac --
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they grew up surrounded by the sea and wealth. but what happened to young people here could have happened anywhere. >> there was a group of us quite frequently after school we'd just hang out. >> he was a promising young surfer. and a son to make a mother proud. >> he was incredible. like a rocket. >> they were former football teammates. they played and partied hard.
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but how did a night out with friends -- >> i just had an unsettling feeling in my stomach. >> -- end with the death of that rising star of the surf? >> he goes, something's happened. i just knew. i said it's emery, isn't it? he said, yeah. >> prosecutors called it murder. these friends said it was a tragic accident. >> one time, it was a fluke and, unfortunately, emery died. >> one young life lost. >> i was screaming emery, emery, please. >> five more on the line. >> it's a wake-up call for parents. >> the surfer and the bird rock bandits. captions paid for by nbc-universal television >> la jolla, california. long a sleepy enclave of the well-to-do was shaken by the brutal beating and death of promising surfer emery and those
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who might have been a little smug about the place, a little soul searching as one shock followed another on their grinding way through the legal system. for a year, the question hung over the town, was it really possible that this celebrated place that produced young men capable of such wanton thuggery? it was the week in which emery's friends mark the one-year anniversary of what to them was clearly the murder of a wonderful young man. but now his story sailed away out of their control. it moved to a downtown san diego courtroom where the judge was about to issue a crucial ruling. >> let the record reflect -- >> reporter: whether these young men, the bird rock bandits, should actually be tried for murder. but before that could be settled, there was another tough question. could the bird rock bandits be defined in law as a criminal street gang?
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if the answer was yes and they were found guilty of any of the charges against them, up to ten years could be added to their sentences. around the courtroom the families waited, hearts in their mouths. this was judge john einhorn. >> i'm going to find that the people have failed to meet the burden of proof that the bird rock bandits is a criminal street gang. >> score one for the defense. >> the gang allegation was dismissed. so i thought that gave us great momentum. >> it was a relief? >> yeah, it was a relief. that's a positive move and we're heading in the right direction. >> reporter: and now the question became, did the d.a. have a case at all? remember, the defendants claimed it was just a drunken street brawl that injured emery. who could have predicted his death from brain injuries days later? as they waited for the judge's next ruling, the bandits and their families allowed
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themselves to hope. >> i thought he was going to drop that whole thing. >> reporter: but then the other shoe dropped. >> insufficient evidence to hold all five defendants responsible. >> reporter: the judge ruled that the bird rock bandits could be tried for the murder of emery kauanui and for many other assaults also. the case wasn't going away. so now the bargaining again. as emery's family and friends out at wind and sea beach marked his absence from their lives, the men blamed for his death were talking to the d.a. but those young tough guys without whom that ceremony would never have had to be held didn't seem quite so tough any more now that they were facing possible life sentences. and over the course of the next month, four of them made deals. >> each one of the defendants, with the exception of mr. hendricks, who pled guilty to accessory after a felony, pled
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guilty to involuntary man slaughter. they pled guilty to involvement in the death of a human being. that is a significant charge. we were free to argue for the maximum penalty. >> reporter: which back in court she did. >> is that this was a group attack. this was a planned attack. >> reporter: for their part, the bird rock bandits seemed a long way from the bar room swagger of that fateful night may 2007. they stood before the judge like lost adolescents, bullies finally exposed. >> there is nothing more that i would like than to undo what has been done. but it's too late. >> not a day goes by that i don't think about emery. i'm sorry for everything that happened and that occurred. >> anything you decide to give me, judge, i promise that i will
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do it wholeheartedly and fully to the highest degree that i can. >> thank you, your honor. >> reporter: although there was nothing at all they could do to console cindy, emery's mother. >> emery's my treasure. and our family's broken. >> reporter: what should happen to those boys? >> i just know that my prayer is that there would be justice. whoever is guilty is going to be guilty. you can't think that you're going to do that and get away with that. you know, they killed a beautiful child, a beautiful human being, a human being that brought a lot of love and joy to the world. if they have to learn their lesson in jail, spend time there to get their life right, then so be it. >> reporter: then the man with the power to decide, his options? anything from probation to prison terms of up to five years. >> this was a tragic, senseless loss of life, and you didn't do a damn thing to help him.
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you victimized a community not once, not twice, but again and again. and you did it by violence and you did it by fear. it's so tempting for me to look at you and say the four of you had all the perks that you could possibly have growing up and that you tried to play tough guys and send you to prison, but that, at least in this court's opinion, would be inconsistent with handling cases as i do. >> reporter: because the bird rock bandits did not have adult criminal records, the sentencing recommendations called for probation and that's what the judge gave them, combined with time in county jail, varying from 90 days to 320. in other words, for all four, a second chance. >> it takes one screw-up to get back in front of me. so do the right thing.
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don't disappoint me. >> reporter: but one bandit was noticeably absent from all of this. the alpha male, seth cravens. the man who delivered the fatal blow. seth had been offered a deal, too. voluntary manslaughter and a prison sentence of 18 years. but seth cravens said no. >> what the government was asking was so extraordinary. >> we wouldn't even consider it. >> i can't make anybody take a plea bargain. i can give people their opportunity to take a plea bargain. i can get things as low as i can, but ultimately, it is the client that needs to sign the form and the client that needs to do the time. >> reporter: are you saying that seth refused to sign that plea bargain? >> well, obviously, he did not want to take the plea bargain. >> reporter: did you say maybe you should? >> well, obviously i'm not going to disclose attorney/client information, but i'm not somebody who is going to browbeat other people into doing time that they don't want to do. >> reporter: so now seth would
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go before a jury. one young man on trial for the many misdeeds of the bird rock bandits and for the death of emery kauanui. >> come to order. court is now in session. >> reporter: what a trial it promised to be. a dig in her heels prosecutor. >> mr. cravens advanced on him, delivered a punch. and it was -- >> he used his left hand. >> reporter: against a no holds barred defense attorney. >> so was mr. cravens' use of force in that instance reasonable? indeed it was. >> reporter: but a very different version of what happened that night. coming up -- seth cravens faces some of his other victims. >> they hit me once in the chest and then once in the chin. >> mr. cravens looked me in the face and told me he was going to f'ing kill me. 3q
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( chef ) all we need to do now is just put our platter in the oven, which we've already prepped-- hold on, sharon ! you can't cook that sea bass in a greasy oven ! why not ? you'd never cook with pots and pans that dirty, would you ? no. new easy-off trigger is fume-free like the leading all-purpose cleaner, and cuts through up to five times more grease. it's the best way to keep your oven perfectly clean, every day ! wow ! you learn something new every day. easy-off. good food deserves a clean oven. easy-off cooktop cleaner. unbeatable on tough grease. you know what went wrong? where the parents think that when you're that young, how can you be that lost? >> reporter: as the case of the remaining bird rock bandit built
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toward a confrontation in court, a perfectly reasonable question made the rounds in la jolla neighborhoods most people assumed were placid, peaceful. how had all this happened? >> it was just a group of guys that liked to party and fight. >> reporter: but according to investigators, the bird rock bandits had been posting photos on the internet of their hard partying for years, and their violent behavior had apparently gone hand in hand. so why hadn't parents or school officials or the police stopped these young men before their behavior reached its horrible climax on that may night? the bird rock bandits high school football coach had been asking himself these very questions. >> many of these guys have had some past history where they have a fight and walk away and there's really no repercussions. >> reporter: had the police just assumed crime didn't happen in la jolla and thus failed to spot the trouble here? >> there is not a large police presence. and so the one or two officers that are in the area are spread pretty thin.
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personally, i think that's kind of allowed some misbehavior to go by. >> reporter: jenny grosso, emery's girlfriend, wondered if it didn't have more to do with the easy life in this jewel by the sea. >> they have so much time on their hands. they're in a community that's safe, so they're allowed to go roam around the community. they're a group of males who are lost and confused. >> reporter: but only one man, remember, was on trial for murder. >> remain seated, come to order. court is now in session. >> reporter: on october 27, 2008, prosecutor sofia roach set out to tell a tale of a rough customer and a steady brutal march toward murder. >> this is a case about power, intimidation and egregious disregard for other human beings. >> reporter: seth cravens, the undisputed muscle of the bird rock bandits, had been charged with second degree murder for delivering the punch that killed
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24-year-old emery kauanui. but he'd been hitting people and hurting them long before that, said the prosecutor. his act a catalog of thuggish behavior. >> he beat michael johnson until he was unconscious. they tried to beat down the door screaming, we're going to kill you. >> reporter: act by act -- >> sucker punched him in the side of the head. >> reporter: victim by victim. >> 16-year-old girl having a small party till mr. cravens punched her full force in the chest. >> reporter: prosecutor roach previewed the extraordinary stories of people who found themselves on the wrong end of a confrontation with seth and friends. >> they simply attacked guests in the front yard. jarrett was beaten, kicked, he had beer poured over him. >> reporter: then the prosecutor called the victims to the stand to tell what happened when they ran afoul of the bird rock bandits. this naval officer said he felt so threatened by seth he was prepared to use a gun to defend him.
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>> said they were going to [ bleep ] kill me. >> reporter: this girl high school age told how seth unprovoked hit her. >> once in the chest and then once in the chin. >> reporter: one by one, victims in assault cases came forward to tell their story. about a young bully who seemed to take pleasure in hurting people. >> mr. cravens looked me in the face and told me that he was going to f'ing kill me. >> reporter: just two weeks before emery met his fate, said the prosecutor, seth cravens jumped a total stranger in front of a la jolla bar and pummeled the man until he bled from the ears and nose. and afterwards he boasted and posted the incident on myspace. when are we going to chill? i can't go to the shack for a while because i murdered someone, ha ha ha. no biggie. call me up and let's get crunk. all of that, said the prosecutor, was prelude. the night emery spilled his drink on one of the bird rock bandits and hours later paid for
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it with a punch from cravens and a brain damaged beyond repair. it was to be the main event at seth cravens' trial. and the main witness, the girlfriend who lived through it. >> i knew that i was going to have to testify. and i was really scared, i was really nervous. >> reporter: she'd stood up to the bird rock bandits, but how would she stand up in court? >> do you need a break? >> no.
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he got up and he approached mr. cravens. >> it's not just stupidity, and it's not just bad luck. mr. cravens knew that his conduct was dangerous. and he knew it was dangerous because he'd had incidents before where it caused tremendously serious injuries.
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>> reporter: prosecutor sofia roach was convinced seth cravens committed second degree murder when he punched emery kauanui. the case for her a cautionary tale of what bullies are capable of. >> mr. cravens decided he had enough. >> reporter: to prove second degree murder, the d.a. had to establish that seth acted with something called implied malice. not that he intended to kill emery, but that he knew by throwing that punch, he might kill him and he punched emery anyway. here's how she introduced the story to the jury. >> standing about four feet away from mr. cravens, he asked him, how are you going to jump me in front of my own house? mr. cravens advanced on him, delivered a punch and mr. kauanui was -- >> reporter: he was dead four days later. then the witnesses, neighbors awakened by the shouting, the punching.
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>> it sounded like a lot of blows, like a sound track out of a movie. >> to me it sounded like a thunk. >> to me it sounded like a scrum line and they were just wailing. four guys were just wailing. >> reporter: this friend arrived in midattack. >> i just thought that the altercation was happening. i was just trying to get there as quick as possible. >> reporter: he talked to emery on the phone when emery seemed to anticipate an attack. >> he was yelling, get here, get here, get here. okay, i'm on my way. i'm on my way. >> reporter: he was driven there by this woman, arriving late in the incident, she said, her headlights flashed on emery in the middle of the throng. >> i saw emery on the ground and everybody else was around punching, kicking. and all of that. nobody was just standing anywhere. >> reporter: though she did say she saw emery try to defend himself. >> did he do something that caused the group to move? >> when he got up he took a swung. >> a swing? >> reporter: whether he swung or not would become a big deal
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before the trial was over. right now, though, the prosecution turned to science to show just how hard seth hit emery. >> i've seen these sort of injuries in motor vehicles. >> reporter: in her work, the medical examiner said she's encountered virtually every kind of head trauma. but when seth hit emery it was with a force not normally seen in a mere punch. it was more like a car accident, she said, or being hit over the head with a baseball bat or tire iron. the injury graphically illustrated with photos from the inside of emery's skull. the heart of the case, though, was emery's sweetheart, jenny grosso, who was there for every key event of may 23rd, 2007. a night that began with her and emery dancing in a crowded bar and ended with emery beaten down on a darkened street. >> do you swear that the testimony you're about to give -- >> i'm going up and i'm telling the truth and telling what i saw. so you know, flip it around, ask
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me 50 different ways, you're going to get the same answer. >> and how was it that you knew mr. kauanui? >> he was my boyfriend for 5 1/2 years and friend. >> reporter: jenny had also known seth and the other bird rock bandits for as long as she'd known her own boyfriend. >> i would never call emery a fighter, but he would defend, you know, then he wouldn't sit down. >> reporter: and so she told the jury she was terrified when she heard cravens and friends planning to go to emery's house and when she went racing back to emery's house where she said she saw her boyfriend on the ground, one of the bandits beating him. >> punching emery in the side of his stomach. he was straddling on top of him and you could see punches coming in on each side of emery's stomach. >> reporter: it was she that watched her boyfriend stagger to his feet after that. >> and he was actually directed to seth at this point. he was standing probably five or six feet in font of him. he just said, how the [ bleep ] you going to jump me at my
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house. maybe his arms raised a little bit, kind of like what happened? >> what did you see happen next? >> i just saw seth walk up to him. he didn't say anything back and he just gave him one extremely hard punch and emery just fell back immediately. it was like the lights went out in emery and he went back. >> what was the first part of his body that you believe hit the ground? >> i heard his head, i heard his skull crack when it hit the pavement. immediately after that there was just a pool of blood that started streaming from the back of emery's head, covering the back. i thought he was dead right then and there. >> do you need a break, miss grosso? >> no, i'm sorry. >> reporter: remarkably jenny wasn't just crying for emery. >> it was really hard for me to look at him in his eyes. my heart was hurting for him at that point. you know, i'm sad for seth, too. if i knew for sure that seth would have walked out of that
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courtroom and he would have helped people for the rest of his life, then that's what i would have wanted. i would never want to take a life away from anyone who doesn't deserve it. >> reporter: still even after all that, that testimony in evidence as the prosecution rested, the question hung in the air, had she proved second degree murder? why was it a murder? >> if you do an act that is so dangerous that the average person would know that it could result in death, then you're culpable for that act. >> reporter: what you're saying is any old bar brawl could be a prelude not to somebody falling down and getting hurt but to a murder? >> we're not talking about a bar brawl. we're talking about a group of people who decided to take that drive to the victim's home when they could have gone anywhere else and conduct a group attack. >> reporter: seth cravens had his own story of what happened that night, of course.
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it won't surprise you that it was a very different story. coming up -- the defense counterattacks with an attack on emery. was this a case of self-defense? >> there was emery and he goes, yeah, come on, come on, come on. it appeared to seth that emery was coming toward him to fight. [ sighs ] ♪ [ inhales deeply ] ♪ ♪ [ female announcer ] lighting a glade scented candle can change your whole day. [ clapping ] oh! [ both chuckle ] thank you. [ female announcer ] release the magic with limited-edition cashmere woods from glade. s.c. johnson. a family company.
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when it went public, this case became not a prosecution but a runaway train. >> reporter: in battle you're pretty aggressive. >> yes, i am. and i think if you were the person sitting next to me, you would want me to be. >> reporter: yes. >> i'm not here to make the prosecutor feel good certainly. >> reporter: seth cravens' attorney mary ellen attridge has a reputation. she's aggressive and she doesn't care who knows it. frankly, she said, prosecutor roach was just the sort she'd love to beat. but defending seth cravens, reputed town bully, that would not be an easy thing to do. >> so this was a perfect storm of bad facts. the drinking of all parties, the fighting, the location of the blow and then the hit on the back of the head. >> reporter: what defense attorney attridge needed to do was make the jury believe a whole new story of what led to all those undeniable bad facts. >> everybody wants to see every participant in black and white
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terms. they want the defendant to be demonized and they want the victim to be canonized. and very rarely are either of those things applicable. >> reporter: and as attridge knew, emery was no saint. he'd been arrested in 2004 for assault on another surfer, the year before for throwing a bottle at a man, and more recently, he had had a dui. in fact, the night he encountered the bird rock bandits, he was still on probation. attridge considered an attempt to get emery's record into evidence and decided not to. >> there is certainly a lot of information i had about this particular gentleman that i did not bring in because it was not relevant. i think that i was somewhat restrained in that regard. >> reporter: dangerous to blame the victim. besides, she said, she didn't have to. instead attorney attridge set out to turn the whole story on its head with, right out of the gate, an astonishing claim. >> it is undisputed that what
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happened to emery kauanui was a tragedy, it was unnecessary and it was senseless, but it was not a murder. it was a case of self-defense. >> reporter: self-defense? how could she sell the idea that big, tough seth cravens surrounded by his buddies was actually defending himself against a lone and much smaller person? with witnesses who would claim that emery was no meek victim at all but that he asked for the fight and was, in fact, going after one ever the bandits. >> the evidence will show that mr. kauanui beat the livi tar out of eric house. kauanui went over to where seth cravens was and five inches away from seth cravens' face, mano a mano he said what the [ bleep ] are you doing coming to my house?
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and seth cravens threw one punch. one punch with his left hand, despite he is a right-handed person. >> reporter: look at it this way, said attridge, not only did emery get right into her client's face, he had just beaten up seth's best friend. the kid who considered seth his protector. and when seth finally responded, it was with his weaker arm. in other words, with no intent to kill. next she told them emery had been drinking and smoking pot, just like the rest of them. and that certainly factored in. >> the blow, in combination with the use of drugs and alcohol, knocked mr. kauanui off his feet and he smacked his head on the sidewalk. >> reporter: but of course, seth wasn't just charged with throwing one punch one time. he was charged with years of bad acts. his attorney had to take those accusations on, too, and she had
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a theory of how to do it. >> well, the case hit the news. it was suddenly a big deal. probably because of the neighborhood. >> reporter: her argument? that those past incidents were blown out of proportion. minor misdeeds, really, elevated by publicity and public anger, exploited by an overzealous prosecutor. >> when it went public, this case became not a prosecution but a runaway train. >> reporter: what was it about her case that made it a runaway train? >> well, first, seth is charged with nothing. >> reporter: all those years he was supposedly rampaging around, she said, nobody ever reported any trouble. >> and then, the incident with emery happened and then the phones start ringing. >> reporter: suddenly there was public outrage.

Dateline NBC
NBC September 13, 2010 3:05am-4:00am EDT

News/Business. Investigative journalism. (HD) (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Seth Cravens 14, California 10, Mr. Cravens 10, Islam 5, Attridge 5, Emery Kauanui 4, Jerry Brown 3, Mr. Kauanui 3, Seth 3, Mike Murphy 3, Ron Brownstein 2, Emery 2, Medicare 2, Washington 2, Bush 2, Roach 2, Meg Whitman 2, Jenny Grosso 2, Obama 2, Jenny 2
Network NBC
Duration 00:55:00
Scanned in Annapolis, MD, USA
Source Comcast Cable
Tuner Channel 79 (555 MHz)
Video Codec mpeg2video
Audio Cocec ac3
Pixel width 528
Pixel height 480
Sponsor Internet Archive
Audio/Visual sound, color

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on 10/8/2011